by Brian Kerstetter
SHOOTING SUPER-8 MOVIES
At school I read an article about Methuselah, the oldest known living organism – a 4,700 year old pine tree in California. I thought I’d like to see that before I die, so my friend, the plaffy, agreed to accompany me in a green chevy from ohio to california.
first, O. went to buy a second-hand Nikon FM2 camera to document the trip, saying “i can drop this camera on my toe, step on it by accident and it will still take a masterpiece of my swollen toe.”
When we arrived in fort wayne, indiana, to prove his point, O. accidentally dropped the camera on a gas station attendant’s foot and then took a striking shot of the guy’s filthy foot held in the air. As it turns out, fourteen years later, famous in photography circles, O. would sell this photo to the nephew of a New York senator for twenty-five thousand dollars.
At the Illinois border I politely asked “O. the complainer” to throw himself out the window or kindly stick a sock in it. Instead, he climbed out of the window and onto the roof of the car. From there, he announced “i’m going to photograph one girl in each state from this angle.” He managed to do so and when we arrived at the pacific ocean two months later we dangled our feet in the water and looked at twenty-two pictures of curious girls looking up.
In south dakota, i bought a super 8 movie camera and a bag of old black & white film at a garage sale. “I bought this camera in Tokyo in 1967,” the guy said. “I remember, cuz I bought it to film my new Japanese girlfriend.” O. took the wheel and I hung my head out the passenger window and filmed as we coasted through farms, towns, and off the road, once, when O. fell asleep outside salt lake city.
When we crossed the California border in late summer we couldn’t recall why we were there, so we found an abandoned airfield with a grass runway in a town called Paradiso, left the car in the parking lot and asked a fellow in jeans and a John Deere cap to fly us as far east as his Cessna would take us. We landed at MacArthur Airport on Long Island four days later. O. puked twice from air sickness, once over Mount Rushmore and a second time near the Football Hall of Fame in Ohio.
Back home, with friends, we watched the home movies I took of our trip. Nobody liked them, even while drinking, and we stopped after four hours. They couldn’t figure out why every day had been cloudy & bleak for an entire month. One friend said it looked like Finland, where he’d visited last winter. I told them it was the black & white film, but they said it was depressing as hell and they no longer wanted to go out for dinner afterwards. The only scene of my movie they liked was when I forgot to turn off the camera and filmed O. pulling up his trousers as he walked into a diner for pancakes.
On the other hand, everyone loved O.’s colorful portraits of skinny girls in shorts and flip flops looking up. They shook his hand and said he would be famous one day. They congratulated him. Then they told me to have a family, that I was a nice boy and that was enough for me.
But I wanted to show my movie to one more person. So I looked up my ex-girlfriend, sat her on a milk crate, and had her watch eleven hours of bumpy, black and white footage. At the end she twisted her head around and said, “my, it’s lovely.” so I took her hand, decided my friends were right, and love being what it is, knocked her up before All Saints Day.